Making 911 System Smarter: Personal Profile Can Assist First Responders


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newsminerA new emergency dispatch service in Fairbanks promises to make 911 smarter, or at least as smart as users want it to be.

The Fairbanks North Star Borough recently subscribed to Smart911, a service that allows residents to post information that might be useful to emergency dispatchers.

Home addresses, descriptions of homes and vehicles, and information about users — such as disabilities and allergies — can save valuable seconds, Fairbanks dispatch center manager Stephanie Johnson said Wednesday morning at a demonstration of the new service.

“When people call 911, they call when they’re not having their best day,” she said. “When they’re not having their best day, they’re not always on their A-game at presenting information about themselves.”

Creating a profile is free and voluntary, she said. The information goes onto a secure server, and the information pops up as an additional window when someone with a profile calls 911. She demonstrated her family’s profile by calling 911 on her cellphone, which brought up a screen when a dispatcher answered the phone. To protect users’ privacy, the profile information is available only when a Smart911 user calls or texts 911.

Home addresses are especially important for 911 dispatchers now that some 66 percent of emergency calls come from cellphones, which provide limited location information, Johnson said. Additional information that can help first-responders include guides for navigating long driveways, photographs of pets and utility shut-off instructions.

The borough is the first government in the state to subscribe to Smart911, which has subscribers across the country. Rave Mobile Safety, a software company based in Farmington, Mass., makes Smart911.

The borough’s subscription costs $19,000 per year, said borough Emergency Operations Director David Gibbs. Smart911 is available to borough residents.

The Fairbanks dispatch center on the second floor of the police department headquarters on Cushman Street dispatches for Fairbanks and North Pole police and several regional fire departments.

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